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Coronavirus: Boris Johnson outlines ‘rule of six’ as he tells nation to limit social interaction

Boris Johnson has urged people to limit their social contact “as much as possible” and to minimise interactions with other households as he outlined new measures to control a surge in coronavirus cases.

The Prime Minister said he was “sorry” that groups of more than six people would no longer be able to meet socially in England from Monday (September 14), and said he wished that he did not have to take such steps.

Boris Johnson. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA (42191758)
Boris Johnson. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA (42191758)

But addressing the first Downing Street press conference since July, Mr Johnson said that “if we are to beat the virus then everyone, at all times, should limit social contact as much as possible”.

“It is safer to meet outdoors and you should keep your distance from anyone you don’t live with, even if they are close friends or family.

“So in England, from Monday, we are introducing the rule of six. You must not meet socially in groups of more than six – and if you do, you will be breaking the law.

“This will apply in any setting, indoors or outdoors, at home or in the pub.

“The ban will be set out in law and it will be enforced by the police – anyone breaking the rules risks being dispersed, fined and possibly arrested.”

A full list of exemptions will be published before the law changes but people who ignore the rules could be fined £100, doubling with each offence to a maximum of £3,200.

The restrictions will be in place for “as long as necessary”.

Mr Johnson also announced:

  • Venues where people meet socially, such as pubs and restaurants, will be legally required to request contact details of every member of a party and retain the information for 21 days. Fines of £1,000 could be levied against hospitality venues if they fail to comply.
  • Passengers travelling to the UK will need to fill out a simplified form with their contact details before they depart, while the Border Force will step up enforcement efforts to ensure compliance with quarantine rules.
  • Plans to pilot larger audiences in venues later this month will be revised, and the government is reviewing its intention to return audiences to stadiums and conference centres from October 1.
  • Opening hours of some venues could be restricted in some local areas. It comes after hospitality venues in Bolton were required to close between 10pm and 5am.
  • “Covid-secure marshals” will be introduced to help ensure social distancing in town and city centres in a bid to improve the enforcement capacity of local authorities.

The new rules follow a rise in cases from 12.5 per 100,000 people to 19.7 per 100,000 in the UK in the last week – with a particular rise in infections among young people.

Infections are most prevalent among the 19 to 21-year-old age group, with 54 cases per 100,000 people.

Seven-day rate of new Covid-19 cases. Graphic: PA (42191756)
Seven-day rate of new Covid-19 cases. Graphic: PA (42191756)

The uptick suggests the national R number is now above 1 – meaning the virus is spreading exponentially.

Mr Johnson also urged people not to book a coronavirus test unless they have symptoms or have been asked to book a test, following reports that people were being denied Covid-19 tests.

“We are increasing our testing capacity further to meet rising demand. You can help by only booking a test if you have a fever, a new continuous cough, or you’ve lost your sense of taste or smell – if you don’t have those symptoms and haven’t been asked to book a test, please don’t,” he said.

The Prime Minister said the aim was to increase testing capacity to 500,000 tests a day by the end of October.

And it is working on introducing new types of swabs or salvia tests that can deliver results in 90 minutes - or in some cases only 20 - meaning millions could be run every day.

He described this as a “moonshot” effort, adding: “We’re hopeful this approach will be widespread by the spring and if everything comes together it may be possible - even for some of the most difficult sectors like the theatres - to have life much closer to normal before Christmas.”

What does the rule of six mean?

  • Social gatherings of more than six people, of any age, in England will not be banned from Monday, September 14
  • It applies in private homes, indoors and outdoors, and includes pubs, restaurants, cafes and public outdoor spaces
  • It does not apply to schools and workplaces, or weddings, funerals and organised team sports
  • People who ignore police could be fined £100 - doubling with each offence to a maximum of £3,200

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